Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he will not make any commitments to future increases in health spending.
In his first interview after taking the role, Mr Hunt told The Spectator magazine that he cannot repeat predecessor Andrew Lansley's promise that spending on health services will increase for the foreseeable future.
Mr Lansley pledged that spending on the NHS would rise in real terms - but warned that efficiency savings were necessary.
But Mr Hunt said that it was impossible to make such commitments without knowing what the economic outlook was going to look like.
However, he said it would be difficult to imagine circumstances in which such spending increases would not happen.
Mr Hunt also said he was committed to a target of creating £20 billion in efficiency savings within the health service by 2015.
The magazine will be released on Monday.